Johnny Depp, it turns out, has led us astray. The real pirates of the Caribbean were actually bloodthirsty and terrifyingly violent, the Telegraph reports. Marine archeologists have been sifting through a shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina that's believed to be the remains of the notorious pirate Blackbeard's flagship, where they recently recovered an arsenal of "improvised" missiles and weaponry.
Blackbeard, who died almost 300 years ago, captured his flagship "Queen Anne's Revenge" in 1717, when it was a French slave ship. Its wreck was first discovered in 1997. Apart from the 1.4 ton anchor, divers have recovered several “makeshift” devices, such as "canvas bags filled with a lethal mass of lead shot, nails, spikes and glass and then fired from the cannon, pouring a deadly hail of projectiles onto opponents." They've also identified "nine-inch bolts, which were pushed down in the barrels of cannons and would be fired out by a cannonball loaded behind them," as well as “double-headed” cannonballs – where two are linked together by a bar or chain.
According to Dr Mark Wilde-Ramsing, leader of the expedition, “These weapons would terrorize the enemy. It is all part of Blackbeard’s terror tactics... I think we will see more contrivances like that which will shed light on the kind of person he was.” Angus Konstam, author of Piracy: The Complete History, noted that these were built so that they "wouldn’t do much damage to a ship but would do a lot of damage to people in it. Their aim was to capture a ship by intimidation and leave it in pristine condition.”
Of course, it's also worth pointing out that both Blackbeard and the Queen Anne's Revenge are featured in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film, which -- serendipitously -- was released last weekend. No explanation is given as to how this happy coincidence for tourism and the box office came about.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.